CHICAGO (Reuters) – More than 80 percent of Americans think the U.S. health system needs either fundamental change or a complete overhaul, according to a survey released on Thursday.

Access to care, better coordination between different health providers and better flow of health information were among their chief complaints, the Harris Interactive poll found — just as another poll found that health insurance costs have doubled for Americans since 1996.

“It’s clear that our health care system isn’t giving Americans the health care they need and deserve,” said Karen Davis, president of the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund, which commissioned the survey.

Both major presidential candidates, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, have pledged to address problems with the U.S. health system. About 47 million Americans do not have insurance.

In the poll, which surveyed a random sample of 1,004 U.S. adults in May, 32 percent agreed the system needed complete rebuilding, while 50 percent thought it required fundamental change.

These views were similar regardless of income and insurance status, with 81 percent of those who were insured for the prior year and 89 percent who were uninsured during the prior year calling for either fundamental change or complete rebuilding.

Overall, 16 percent of adults said the health care system works relatively well and needed only minor reform.

Most said health insurance needs to be simplified, and 9 out of 10 said they supported the wider use of health information systems that could improve coordination between health providers.


The nonprofit fund also released findings of a report suggesting ways to improve the U.S. system. It recommends rewarding health providers for high quality care, and offering patients incentives for seeking out health providers that offer the best and most efficient care.

Much of the report focused on ways to improve efficiency and accountability among health providers.

Inefficiencies and rising costs have resulted in a 100 percent increase in health premiums for private sector employers and their workers in just over a decade, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Its national survey, released on Thursday, found the average premium for a family insurance plan rose to $11,381 in 2006, from $4,954 in 1996, while the average cost for a single premium rose to $4,118 from $1,992.

Employers paid for most of the increases, but employees saw their share rise as well, climbing to an average of $2,890 for family coverage in 2006 from $1,275 in 1996, and an average of $788 per year for single coverage, up from $342.

Americans spend double what people in other industrialized countries do on health care, but often have more trouble seeing doctors, are the victims of more errors and go without treatment more often.

A Commonwealth Fund survey last year found that Americans spent $6,697 per capita on health care in 2005, or 16 percent of gross domestic product, compared to $3,326 in Canada, or 9.8 percent of GDP.

(Editing by Maggie Fox and Stacey Joyce)